A regional rivalry resumes Saturday afternoon when Sporting Kansas City (0-1-0, 0 points) visits the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois.
The interconference matchup will kick off at 5 p.m., airing live on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus, ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish).
In addition, the Bud Light Pregame Show is slated for 4:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, while The Final Whistle Postgame Show will air immediately after the match on 94.5 FM. Supporters can also catch Saturday’s action via the FOX Sports GO app and Sporting KC Uphoria, which will provide live updates throughout the game.
Sporting KC is looking to bounce back from its third home-opening defeat in the club’s 23-year history, suffered at the hands of New York City FC last Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park.
The 2-0 setback marked just the second time since the start of 2017 that manager Peter Vermes’ men have conceded twice on home soil, previously doing so in a 3-2 victory over Chicago last July.
However, the visitors will be boosted by the presence of 350 traveling supporters set to ascend on Toyota Park for the team’s first road test of 2018.
Saturday serves as the season-opening fixture for the Chicago Fire, who topped Tulsa Roughnecks FC 2-1 in their final preseason tune-up last Saturday.
Under the guidance of head coach Veljko Paunovic, Chicago was the most improved MLS team in 27, finishing third in the Eastern Conference with a 16-11-7 record (55 points) and advancing to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2012.
The Fire were particularly strong in the friendly confines of Toyota Park, going 12-2-3 with a plus-27 goal differential.
A pair of European veterans lead Chicago into the new season, namely 2017 MLS Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic and German World Cup champion Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The 30-year-old Nikolic led MLS with 24 regular-season goals last year, including a remarkable 19 strikes in 17 home games. Schweinsteiger fortified the midfield alongside Dax McCarty, giving the Fire a formidable spine to complement a prolific offense that amassed 61 regular-season goals.
Three Sporting KC newcomers made their MLS debuts with starts last Sunday. Chilean midfielder Felipe Gutierrez led all MLS players in Week 1 with 13 duels won and seven tackles won, Scottish winger Johnny Russell led the team with five shots, and Frenchman Yohan Croizet finished with a game-high four chances created.
Newly acquired forward Khiry Shelton missed Sunday’s contest with a leg bruise, but the 24-year-old is in contention to feature in Vermes’ lineup on Saturday.
The sides most recently met in July 2017 at Children’s Mercy Park as Sporting KC used a goal and an assist from forward Daniel Salloi to claim an exciting 3-2 win. The triumph extended Sporting KC’s home unbeaten run against Chicago to six matches and ultimately helped propel the club to its seventh consecutive playoff appearance.
Sporting KC’s ventures to Chicago have been less fruitful over the years. The team has a 4-18-2 regular season road record against the Fire, including one-goal defeats in each of the last three fixtures. Chicago holds a 26-15-11 edge in the regular season series, but Kansas City retains bragging rights with head-to-head victories in the 2000 MLS Cup and 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final.
On Saturday, if Sporting KC captain Matt Besler plays at least 79 minutes he would become the third Sporting KC player to log 20,000 career minutes for the club in the regular season. Besler, a native of Overland Park, Kansas, would become the eighth active MLS player to log 20,000 minutes for the same team if he plays at least 79 minutes Saturday.
– Information from Sporting KC